In preparation for his role, Shia LaBeouf worked extensively with traders and researchers on the world of finance and economy. He even invested 20,000 dollars, and ended up making more than 400,000 dollars. A few people who trained him were later arrested for illegal acts of trading.
When the film was released, Shia LaBeouf told a story about a disagreement he had with Oliver Stone over a line. He told the press: "We're in the Adirondacks, and Josh Brolin and I are shooting this bike scene. And at one point I say to Josh a line - 'You should look at yourself in the mirror first and see yourself. It might scare you. I looked at the line for a couple of months and thought I'd go to Oliver and say, 'You look at the mirror and look at yourself. It's sort of repetitive. Why don't we just cut one of those? Why don't I say, Look at yourself. It might scare you.' Stone looked at him and calmly replied 'I like mirror. I wrote Scarface (1983). Go fuck yourself.'"
According to Shia LaBeouf, 90% of the people that he met during research had gotten into economics and stocks because of Gordon Gekko's legacy. LaBeouf remarked that he would make deals with people, that if they helped him out, LaBeouf would introduce them to Michael Douglas.
Oliver Stone originally wanted Carey Mulligan to have long hair in the film and was somewhat dismayed to discover that she had cropped hair in real life. He wanted her to wear a wig but she refused, saying that it would affect her performance. Eventually she was able to persuade him to let her play the part with short hair.
Gekko's line "You stop telling lies about me, I'll stop telling the truth about you" is lifted from American politician Adlai Stevenson's famous quote: "I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them."
Stanley Weiser, original writer for Wall Street (1987), was previously attached to the project. However, his involvement with the sequel fell through due to creative differences. His script involved Gekko getting involved with the Chinese markets. After the 2008 financial crisis, 20th Century Fox ordered the script to be rewritten to include current events. At the time Oliver Stone was steadfastly declining to return as director, and Weiser didn't want to be involved if Stone wasn't going to direct, so he dropped out. Later Stone was given a new draft by Allan Loeb and decided to direct after all.
Bill Clark is based on Henry Paulson who was Treasury Secretary under the George W. Bush Administration when the financial crisis occurred. Similarly, the New York Federal Reserve Head played by Jason Clarke is clearly modeled on Timothy Geithner who held that position in real life in 2008 before succeeding Paulson as Treasury Secretary.
Title was originally "Money Never Sleeps". When Oliver Stone signed on to direct, he added "Wall Street 2" to the title. Later the numeral was dropped, since Stone wanted the film to be seen as both a sequel and a stand alone story.
The first Oliver Stone film to appear at Cannes. Stone's earlier films Natural Born Killers (1994) and U Turn (1997) had been rejected. After screening the film at Cannes, Stone responded to the reception by making some changes to the ending.
Music is used to atmospherically link the movie with Wall Street (1987). Much of the soundtrack of both films is provided by Brian Eno and/or David Byrne of the Talking Heads. In fact the Talking Heads song "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" is used in both films.
The fictional bank Churchill Schwartz is based on both Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan/Chase.In real life, J. P. Morgan/Chase originally purchased Bear Stearns for two dollars per share on the direction of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, only to be later changed to ten dollars per share. Frank Langella's character Louis Zabel was told he would initially receive the same amount for his company during the scene of New York Federal Reserve meeting. Also, Louis Zabel accuses Bretton James, of exacting revenge for refusing to bail out James' Churchill Schwartz during the market crash of 2000. This is loosely based off Bear Stearns decision not to assist Goldman Sachs and other investment banks to do the same for infamous hedge fund Long Term Capital Management following the Russian bond default in 1998.
Screenwriter Allan Loeb is a licensed stock broker. According to Loeb, he was most fascinated by the Bernie Madoff scandal, and how it had seemed so low-class. Director Oliver Stone has since dismissed the notion that Madoff would be referenced in the film.
Shia LaBeouf's character Jacob Moore tells Bretton James (Josh Brolin) who is a fellow lover of motorcycle riding, that if James were to ride everyday for the rest of his life, James would still never be as good as Moore. This is based on the initial meeting between Bear Stearns executives Alan C. Greenberg and Jimmy Cayne. When Cayne was introduced to Greenberg following an interview for a sales position with the firm, Greenberg asked Cayne if he was a bridge player and how well did he play. Cayne responded "Mr. Greenberg, if you study bridge the rest of your life, if you play with the best partners and you achieve your potential, you will never play bridge like I play bridge." Greenberg so admired Cayne's confidence, he hired him on the spot.
The fusion project depicted in the movie is based on work at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which Oliver Stone toured during production. The graphics used to show the process are very similar to and derived from animations viewable at the National Ignition Facility website.
Zabel's firm is based on both Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Like Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne, Zabel would threaten to declare bankruptcy only to later acquiesce to the deal. Also like Bear Stearns, Keller Zabel's New York headquarters was worth more than the initial offer of two dollars per share. Finally as was the fate of Keller Zabel, both Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were allegedly brought down by massive short selling based on rumors of solvency issues due to each company's holdings of toxic mortgage-backed securities.
A photo of Kirk Douglas (Michael Douglas' father) can be seen in the scene at London's tailor. When Gekko is talking through the phone, arranging meetings with high society, the photo appears on the wall behind Gekko's back, apparently in "notable customers" gallery.
The Spanish painter Goya's painting "Saturno devorando a un hijo (Saturn devouring his son)" is actually in Museo del Prado, in Madrid, with the rest of the 13 Goya's "Black Paintings". In the movie, Bretton says that there are 14 paintings in El Prado and this is in his office.
Note that the opening scene - Gordon gets out of prison, gets his money clip with no money in it, his Cartier watch and quote mobile phone unquote back and does not get a limo - is stylistically quite different from the rest of the movie. That is because it was written in December 2000 by a German creative director, Jan Geschke, who was producing the only European commercials Michael Douglas ever agreed to for the stock market branch of Commerzbank AG, Comdirect, as the pilot for a series of commercials celebrating the return of Gordon Gecko from prison with 86 million dollars acquired through online trading by WAP phone from behind bars. The script was handed to Oliver Stone on January, 15th, in the bar of the Del Mar hotel in Santa Monica, Cal., when discussing the possibility of him directing 6 commercials. Quote "If I ever do a sequel, I'll start with this." End of quote. Michael did not agree to the ad agency's choice of director, Oliver did not wish to become involved with ad work, Harald Zwart was chosen as director for the shooting of 6 different commercials which had become necessary when the bank client realized "That Gordon Gecko is a CRIMINAL!" The original script rested with Oliver Stone until he decided to use it.
In his study as he is talking to Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) in his office, over Bretton James' (Josh Brolin) shoulder is a picture of James standing with President George W. Bush, whom Brolin had previously played in W. (2008).
The fictional oil company Hydra Offshore, "a huge deep-sea exploration play off the coast of Equatorial Guinea", may have been patterned on the real-life company Hyperdynamics, a huge deep-sea exploration play off the coast of the Republic of Guinea.
Journalist Edward Jay Epstein briefly appears during the Federal Reserve meeting scene. Epstein is well-known as a researcher of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and had previously criticized 'JFK'_(1991)_, also directed by 'Oliver Stone'
Josh Brolin played President George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's previous film W. (2008) and Frank Langella played President Richard Nixon in an Oscar nominated performance in Frost/Nixon (2008) released the same year. Stone directed another film on President Nixon, Nixon (1995), in which Anthony Hopkins was the first actor to be nominated for an academy award for Best Actor playing Nixon. Furthermore, Bush was in office when the financial crisis depicted in the film occurred, and the film W. (2008) was released near the same time in 2008. A poster of W. (2008) is visible in Bretton's office, and it is the only acknowledgment that President Bush is President in the film's alternate reality of 2008.
During the meeting between Jake and Bretton James in James' study, as James is walking in it, you can clearly see a black and white photograph of Jackie Kennedy hanged in the study wall, probably from the times when she was first lady.
Oliver Stone: [W] The third consecutive time that a fiction film released by Stone begins with the letter W (following W. (2008) and World Trade Center (2006)). All three films are based on historical/political events in the early 21st century.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The final shot is an echo of the last shot of Wall Street (1987), with the camera rising up above the characters and turning to overlook the Manhattan skyline which then becomes a graphic, while "This is the Place (Naive Melody)" plays on the soundtrack.